Corrado Introduces Bill Closing Pension Forfeiture Loopholes for Convicted Public Officials
Senator Kristin Corrado has introduced legislation that will strip public officials of their pensions if they are convicted of certain serious crimes that touch on their office or employment.
“It’s almost unimaginable that public employees and elected officials in New Jersey can be convicted of serious crimes like accepting bribes, molestation, and child pornography while on the job and still be rewarded with a pension for honorable service,” said Corrado (R-40). “If you violate the public trust and break the law while working for taxpayers, you do not deserve a taxpayer-funded pension. The fact that this loophole hasn’t been closed yet is absolutely shameful.”
In one well-publicized abuse, former Assemblyman Neil Cohen (D) was convicted of a charge related to child pornography after he was caught printing illicit images using his district office computer equipment. Despite accepting a plea agreement and serving time in prison, Cohen was granted a $43,000 annual pension.
Nearly 100 other officials were found to be collecting lucrative public pensions despite criminal convictions related to their jobs, according to an investigation by NJ Advance Media.
Corrado’s legislation would require the forfeiture of the pension or retirement benefit of a person if the person is convicted of any crime of the first or second degree, or the equivalent under the laws of another state or of the United States, when the offense is related to the person’s performance in or circumstances flowing from the public office or employment held by the person.
The bill also specifies that pension forfeiture applies in cases that result in qualifying guilty or nolo contendere pleas, in addition to convictions.
Further, the bill would open a person’s public pension to garnishment in order to fulfill court-ordered recovery of public funds.
“Public officials need to know when they break the law that they’re putting their entire pension and a comfortable retirement at risk, in addition to any other criminal penalties they might be subject to,” added Corrado. “Hopefully they’ll realize before it’s too late that breaking the law just isn’t worth it.”
Corrado’s new measure is the Senate version of legislation, A-4641, that passed the General Assembly unanimously earlier this week.